Apr 12, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Opposition-nominated Commissioners to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) have rebuffed statements attributed to GECOM’s Attorney-at-Law, Anthony Astaphan to say his submissions to the court were never discussed by the electoral body.
The disclosure was had over the weekend in a public missive penned by the three APNU+AFC Commissioners, namely Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman.
According to the missive by the trio, subsequent to the hearing of the Election Petition number 88 on Wednesday last, sections of the media reported that GECOM proposed that the Petition be thrown out.
According to the Commissioners, “while it might be true that attorney-at-law Astaphan, who is representing GECOM in this matter, would have proffered that position, it is a gross misrepresentation to attribute his submission to GECOM, as a matter of fact.”
The trio maintained that “we the Commissioners, whose nominations originated from the APNU-AFC or their predecessor, do not subscribe to the view that Astaphan’s submission is reflective of GECOM’s position.”
They underscored that, “without comment on, or prejudice to his submission, let it be known that at no time did the Commission discuss the Petition and or determine as a Commission a position on the matter.”
It was noted too that “there is no brief that can be sourced to the Commission, as a collective of Commissioners.”
This publication had reported following the court hearing that Astaphan—GECOM’s lead attorney—had rebuffed the claims outlined in the election petition challenging the outcome of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections results and had requested that the petition be thrown out.
According to the GECOM attorney, “Section 22 (of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act) got its constitutional authority and genesis from the Constitution… Order 60 is entirely consistent with the Constitution also and the purpose was transparent, enacted in good faith and intended to remove the difficulties to allow for a declaration.”
The lawyer noted that since there was difficulty with the elections, Order No. 60 of 2020 was created by virtue of Article 162 (1) (b) of the Constitution and Section 22 of the Elections Laws Amendment Act to resolve irregularities, discrepancies, and anomalies occurring in the elections process and to determine a final credible count.
In those circumstances, Astaphan told the court, “We are not conceding any breach at all.”
Astaphan argued too, that the petitioners needed to prove total non-compliance with the law, since they have not done so in their written or oral submissions.
The lawyer made specific reference to Article 162 (1) (b) of the Constitution of Guyana.
He noted that “The Acts of Parliament must be read subject to the overriding powers of the Constitution which give GECOM discretion on how the law was to be applied to allow for fair, impartial interpretation of the law.”
The lawyer noted, that for the petitioners to show that there was total non-compliance
“A mere breach is not enough. It has to be a substantial non-compliance that introduces something; introducing a principle that is hostile to the fundamental constitutional principle,” he emphasized.
As such, Astaphan told the Chief Justice that even if she finds that there was a breach, there were no consequences which affected the conduct or result of the count, and therefore the election petition should be dismissed.
In his submissions, lead attorney for the petitioners, John Jeremie, asked the court to determine, among other things, questions of whether the elections have been lawfully conducted or whether the results have been, or may have been affected by any unlawful act or omission and in consequence thereof, whether the seats in the National Assembly have been lawfully allocated.
He pointed to a series of claims that he believes would lead the court to discredit the constitutionality of the elections laws or the lawfulness of the recount order, which led to the triumph of the ruling People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C).
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